Short iron shots are some of the most important shots you will hit during the course of any round.

How to Master the Art of Hitting Short Iron Shots

How to Master the Art of Hitting Short Iron Shots?

These shots should be seen as scoring opportunities, since your short irons are generally pretty easy to control and are obviously played within short range of the green. If you are a beginning golfer, learning how to hit the green regularly with your short iron shots will help you turn bogeys into pars. For the more experienced player, mastering the art of hitting short iron shots close to the hole will help you turn pars in birdies. Either way, you don’t want to overlook this critical category of your game.

One of the ways you may be able to improve your short iron play is by analyzing your divots. There is a lot to be learned from the divots you take out of the ground during your swing, whether you are hitting a short iron or any other type of club. You can think of a divot as the physical proof of how your club moved through the hitting area on a given shot. The club moves way too fast at the bottom of the swing for you to actually see how it is performing, so checking out your divot after the fact can provide you with some valuable info.

In this article, we are going to discuss a variety of points related to short iron divots. How do you read your divots in order to draw accurate conclusions about your swing? What do you want your short iron divots to look like? How can you adjust your swing technique if your divots are not matching up with what you would like to see? The answers to these questions and more will be found in the content that follows.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

The Art of Reading Divots

The Art of Reading Divots

Reading a divot is something that most experienced golfers take for granted. After hitting a shot from the fairway, an experienced golfer will likely look down at the divot that was created, note what it might mean about the shot that was just hit, and move on. It won’t look like much, and they probably won’t observe the hole in the ground for more than a second or two. In that short amount of time, however, much will be learned.

In this section, we hope to help you learn how to read divots properly. Will you be able to immediately read your divots as quickly and easily as a more experienced player? No, probably not. It takes time to get to that level, so you’ll probably need to work a little harder at it at first. But that’s okay. As you continue to work on your game and you pick up more and more experience, you’ll get faster and more confident in your divot-reading abilities.

Without further delay, let’s look at some of the key points to keep in mind when trying to read a divot.

  • It all starts with path. The first piece of information that you are trying to pick up when you look down at your divot is the path that the swing took through the hitting area.
  • This will be identified rather obviously by the direction that the divot is pointing. Stand behind the divot, so that you are looking down the target line you had used for the shot. Is the divot pointed directly at your target, or does it veer off to one side or the other? Hopefully, the direction of the divot will match up with what you were trying to do with the shot. For example, if you wanted to hit a little draw into the target, your divot should be pointed just slightly to the right of the target.
  • That swing path, combined with a slightly closed face at impact, should create the draw you had in mind. Don’t get caught up thinking that all of your divots need to point directly at the target in order for you to be a quality player. It’s actually pretty tough to swing perfectly down the target line time after time, so there is nothing wrong with divots that point out to the right or left a bit. The important things are that you intended to swing in the direction that is represented by the divot, and that your swing isn’t moving too dramatically in one direction or the other.
  • To continue our example from above, it’s fine to swing slightly inside-out if you are planning to hit a draw. However, if your divot is showing that you swing dramatically from inside-out, that draw you had in mind is likely going to turn into a hook. We will talk more about the path of your divot in the next section of this article.
  • Depth matters, too. In addition to concerning yourself with the direction of the divot, you want to think also about the depth of the divot. This is the dimension that is overlooked by many players, but it is just as important as the first point on our list. The depth of your divot is going to speak to the downward angle you are using through the hitting area.
  • A particularly steep swing is going to lead to a deep divot, while a shallow swing will naturally produce a shallow divot – if it produces any divot at all. While it is generally a good idea to hit down through your short iron shots, you want to make sure you are avoiding excessively deep divots.
  • There are a couple problems with taking deep divots out of the ground. First, you can hurt yourself. Swinging down too steeply into the ground can potentially lead to hand and wrist injuries, or other issues that arise as a result of the harsh impact with the turf. Even if you manage to take these divots without injuring yourself, your spin rate and trajectory will still be a concern.
  • Short iron shots struck with a steep downswing are usually going to have a very high rate of spin, and while that sounds like a good thing, it can be difficult to control. Most of the time, you’d be better off with a moderate spin rate so you can predict the flight of the ball more accurately.
  • Consistency. Obviously, you can’t assess the consistency of your divots by just looking at the hole in the ground you make on one swing. Instead, this is a point that is going to reveal itself over the course of a full round – or, more accurately, over the course of several rounds.
  • Once you get into the habit of paying attention to the divot you take on each short iron swing, you will soon start to notice some patterns. Hopefully, the pattern is that you take the same kind of divot almost every time. If that is true, you can at least feel good about the fact that your swing is repeating from shot to shot, even if it is not working exactly as you would like.
  • On the other hand, if you notice that your divots seem to look radically different from shot to shot, you’ll know that something in your fundamental technique needs to be corrected. Your golf swing shouldn’t change dramatically from shot to shot, and neither should your divot pattern.

Learning something from your divots is going to seem a bit intimidating at first. Even if you aren’t exactly sure what you are looking at or how it can help you, do your best to get into this habit and gain experience with each passing shot. As time moves along as your rack up one round after the next, it will become easier and easier to pick up valuable information from the hole you leave in the turf after each short iron swing.

An Ideal Short Iron Divot

An Ideal Short Iron Divot

In this section, we are going to provide some parameters with regard to what you should be looking for in a short iron divot. It is important to note right from the start that you are free to stray from these guidelines somewhat in order to play to your personal strengths.

For instance, some golfers like to hit their short irons with a relatively shallow swing, while others like to dig into the turf a bit more. Use the points we make below as general guidelines, but don’t treat them as hard and fast rules. In the end, the goal is to hit quality short irons shots, even if your divots don’t look exactly as described in this section.

  • Straight down the line. We mentioned earlier that it is rather difficult to swing directly down the line toward the target, and that remains true. However, it is easier to accomplish this goal with a short iron than it is with a longer club. So, when hitting shot iron shots, it is reasonable to strive for a divot that is pointed directly at the target.
  • You probably aren’t going to be playing much of a draw or fade when you have a short iron in your hands, so swinging right at the target does make sense. Of course, you’ll need to assess your own short iron ball flight pattern before you can decide where you should aim.
  • A shallow divot. For most golfers, we think it is better to stay on the shallower side with regard to divot depth. With a shallow divot, you will enjoy a couple of advantages that should help you hit the ball closer to the hole. The main benefit is that you should be able to hit slightly flatter short iron shots, and that kind of trajectory makes it easier to control your distance.
  • Also, there is less risk of hitting the shot significantly fat when you swing on a shallow plane. Even if you do catch the shot a bit heavy, you should still be able to get enough of it to lead to a decent result. You may decide that you get better results from a deeper divot pattern, and that’s fine if it is the case, but our opinion is that most golfers will be happy with taking a shallower approach.
  • Clean entry. There is one other aspect of your divots which we have not yet mentioned in this article. In addition to the direction and the depth of your divots, you can also look at the point of entry for signs of potential trouble in your swing. Basically, you are going to look to see whether or not the leading edge of the short iron went into the turf in a square position.
  • You will be able to confirm this is the case if there is a clean line as the start (back) of the divot. If the beginning of the divot is uneven, that means either the toe or the heel has gone into the turf first. Look at the shape of the divot to decide whether the toe or the heel dug in before the rest of the club head. Failing to start your divots cleanly can lead to trouble, as the club may twist on its way through impact if you stick the toe or the heel in the ground first.

If you manage to create nice looking divots with most of your short iron swings, you should be well on your way to success in this part of the game. Producing a nice divot is not your entire job, of course – the goal of the shot is to hit the ball close to the hole, not to make a pretty divot – but you can think of the divot as proof that you are on the right track. If your divots look good in terms of direction, depth, and a clean entry, you’ll know that your swing can’t be far off the mark.

Making Adjustments

Making Adjustments

Golf is a game of adjustments. You can never assume that your technique is ‘set’, because things are always changing in the swing. Even if you are trying to make the same swing over and over again, round after round, something is sure to get off track along the way. One of your most important jobs as a golfer is to learn how to adjust on the fly to get the best possible results.

As it relates to our discussion about divots, you will need to know how to make mid-round adjustments when you notice that something looks off with your divots. You don’t want to overreact to just one oddly shaped divot, but seeing two or more that are not in line with your usual pattern is cause for concern. Once you spot a problem, consider using one of the tips below to get yourself back on track.

  • Deep divots. If you find that you are suddenly taking deep divots when you usually take shallower divots, something has obviously gone a bit wrong in your swing.
  • One possibility is that your backswing has gotten too long, which is leading you to get too far onto your left side before the club can move down through the hitting area. Try tightening up your backswing just a bit to restore your balance, and you may find that those deep divots suddenly disappear.
  • Of course, you don’t want to make the mistake of rushing your swing when you shorten up your backswing. Go ahead and make a slightly shorter turn, but still pay attention to your tempo and give yourself plenty of time to make your way through the backswing before changing directions and heading down toward the ball.
  • Divots pointed to the right. When you are used to producing divots which are pointed directly at the target, it can be concerning to see that your divots are suddenly pointed out to the right of where you intended to aim. In many cases, there is quite a simple explanation for this issue – you are aiming incorrectly.
  • Rather than something being wrong with your swing technique, it may be nothing more than poor aim. Before your next short iron shot, be sure to double check your alignment to confirm that everything is on track. While it is possible that something has changed in your swing to produce an inside-out path, it’s quite likely that you’ll be able to get back on track with an alignment check.
  • Divots pointed to the left. When you find that your divots are pointed to the right, there’s a good chance that alignment is to blame. When right-handed golfers make a mistake with their aim, that mistake tends to take them too far to the right. On the other hand, if you find that your divots are now pointed to the left, you may have a swing issue to address.
  • Quite possibly, you could be using too much hand action early in the backswing. If you use your hands and wrists actively in the backswing, you are likely to move the club too far to the inside. At the top of the swing, you’ll feel crowded because of the inside backswing, so you will likely push the club up and away from your body to start the downswing. This is known as an ‘over the top’ move, and it leads to an outside-in swing path through the hitting area.
  • Take a moment to think about how you’ve been taking the club back away from the ball on recent short iron swings. If your hands have been too active, focus on using your shoulders more in order to quiet your hands and get the club back in position.

It takes time to learn how to make adjustments in golf. At first, you’ll probably need to wait until your round is over, so you can visit the driving range and figure out what is going wrong. As you gain experience, however, you’ll be more quickly able to right the ship and get back to playing your best golf. Use your divots as visual proof of what is going on, so you can hopefully shorten the length of time it takes to correct your errors.

Closing Thoughts

Closing Thoughts

Analyzing the pattern of your divots is something that is not only useful when hitting short irons, but also when hitting most of the other clubs in your bag (other than the driver and putter – you shouldn’t be taking divots with those clubs).

Do yourself a favor and get in the habit of checking out each and every divot you take during the course of a round, no matter what club you happen to be holding. From short chip shots from around the green to long iron shots played from way back in the fairway, every divot has a story to tell.

Also, be sure that you are doing the right thing and taking care of your divots appropriately. Some courses ask that you replace your divots, while others would prefer that you fill the divot hole with sand. Whatever the local policy happens to be, respect it and help to keep the course in good condition for other players. Of course, the time you spend to replace or fill in your divot is the perfect opportunity to evaluate it and pick up information that can help you on future shots.

We hope this article on divots with short irons will cause you to take a fresh look at the divots you take during upcoming rounds. You should never pass up a chance to learn something about your game, whether it is during practice or out on the course. To improve at a game as difficult as this one, you don’t want to leave any opportunities on the table. Learning to read your divots is a skill which could benefit you in both the short- and long-term as you continue to strive for a better game.

Causes and Cures: Short Iron Golf Club Issues

Issues with short iron golf clubs, typically the scoring irons like the pitching wedge, 9-iron, and sand wedge, can impact a golfer's ability to control distance and accuracy on approach shots. Here are some common causes and cures for short iron issues:


  1. Swing Mechanics: Swing flaws, such as poor weight transfer, over-the-top movements, or an inconsistent tempo, can lead to issues with short irons.
  2. Grip Pressure: Holding the club too tightly or too loosely can affect control and shot consistency.
  3. Ball Position: Incorrect ball position in your stance (too far forward or backward) can lead to inconsistent contact and ball flight.
  4. Clubhead Manipulation: Trying to steer or manipulate the clubhead during the swing can lead to inconsistent results.
  5. Lack of Confidence: Mental factors, like a lack of confidence in your ability to hit precise shots, can affect performance.


  1. Swing Mechanics: Work with a golf instructor to identify and address swing flaws specific to your short iron play. Focusing on fundamentals like weight transfer, posture, and club path can lead to improvement.
  2. Grip Pressure: Maintain a light and consistent grip pressure on the club. Avoid squeezing the club too tightly, which can inhibit a fluid swing.
  3. Ball Position: Experiment with ball position during practice to find the optimal spot for your short irons. Generally, it should be slightly forward of center in your stance.
  4. Consistency Over Control: Instead of trying to control the clubhead, focus on making a consistent, well-practiced swing. Trust your technique to deliver consistent results.
  5. Mental Confidence: Work on your mental game by visualizing successful shots and developing a pre-shot routine. Trust in your ability to execute precise short iron shots.
  6. Practice Short Game: Dedicate time to practicing your short irons, both on the range and around the green. Short game practice can improve your feel for these clubs and enhance your ability to control distance.
  7. Club Fitting: Ensure your short irons are properly fitted to your swing and body type. The right shaft flex, lie angle, and clubhead design can make a significant difference.
  8. Feedback: Use alignment sticks, video analysis, or training aids to get feedback on your short iron swings. This can help you identify areas that need improvement.
  9. Simulate Pressure Situations: Create pressure situations in practice, such as trying to hit specific targets or simulating game-like conditions. This can improve your ability to perform under pressure.
  10. Short Game Drills: Practice various short game drills to hone your distance control, accuracy, and consistency with short irons.
  11. Course Management: Consider course management strategies that allow you to play to your strengths with short irons. This might involve positioning yourself for more favorable approach shots.

Improving short iron play takes a combination of technique refinement, mental preparation, and practice. Identifying the causes of your specific issues and applying the suggested cures can lead to more consistent and accurate short iron shots on the golf course.

Q&A on the causes and cures for short iron golf club issues:

Q1: What are some common causes of short iron issues in golf? A1: Common causes of short iron issues include swing mechanics, grip pressure, ball position, clubhead manipulation, and mental factors like lack of confidence.

Q2: How can swing mechanics affect short iron play? A2: Swing flaws, such as improper weight transfer, over-the-top movements, or inconsistent tempo, can lead to inconsistencies in short iron shots.

Q3: What is the role of grip pressure in short iron performance? A3: Grip pressure is crucial; holding the club too tightly or too loosely can affect control and shot consistency. Maintaining a light and consistent grip is key.

Q4: How does ball position impact short iron shots? A4: Ball position influences contact and ball flight. Generally, short irons should be played with the ball slightly forward of center in your stance.

Q5: What is meant by “clubhead manipulation,” and why is it problematic? A5: Clubhead manipulation refers to trying to steer or control the clubhead during the swing. It's problematic because it can lead to inconsistent results. It's better to focus on a consistent swing.

Q6: How can golfers build mental confidence in their short iron play? A6: Building mental confidence involves visualizing successful shots, developing a pre-shot routine, and trusting your ability to execute precise short iron shots.

Q7: Are there specific practice drills for improving short iron play? A7: Yes, there are various short game drills that can help improve short iron play, including distance control, accuracy, and consistency drills.

Q8: Can club fitting play a role in resolving short iron issues? A8: Yes, club fitting is essential. Ensuring that your short irons are properly fitted to your swing and body type can make a significant difference in performance.

Q9: How can golfers simulate pressure situations in practice? A9: Golfers can simulate pressure situations by creating challenges, setting specific targets, or practicing in game-like conditions to improve their ability to perform under pressure.

Q10: What is the importance of course management in addressing short iron issues? A10: Course management involves making strategic decisions on the course. Golfers can use it to position themselves for more favorable short iron approach shots, which can help in executing precise shots.

Q11: What's the best approach to improving short iron play? A11: Improving short iron play requires a combination of technique refinement, mental preparation, and practice. Identify the specific causes of your issues and work on the suggested cures to enhance your performance.

Addressing short iron issues takes dedication and a systematic approach to practice and improvement. By understanding the causes and applying the suggested cures, golfers can become more consistent and accurate with their short iron shots on the golf course.